FAQs about BU’s 2019 Commencement

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From the Dean of Students office to University info-sites and Commencement organizers, BU Today sought answers to questions—from the obvious to the obscure—about this weekend’s bon voyage to the Class of 2019.

What do I need to know about parking?

For those who must drive to campus, all University parking lots and garages will be open and available free of charge throughout the weekend. On Commencement Day, all are asked to use parking facilities east of the BU Bridge and take the available shuttle bus up to Nickerson Field. Parking is extremely limited in the Nickerson Field and West Campus area. All lots throughout BU have accessible parking for those with disabilities. Find complete parking and transportation arrangements on the BU Parking & Transportation Services site.

A graduate rides her bike down Commonwealth Ave

Photo by Byron Smith

What if I don’t want to drive?

Even better. You can quickly and easily hop on a Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) bus or trolley from campus to various places in the city and beyond. Check the MBTA site for maps and schedules, or use its trip planner. The BU Shuttle (the BUS) will provide free continuous service between Kenmore Square and the Track & Tennis Center throughout the weekend for our guests. Check the Shuttle Bus Map for stops near your destination and hours of operation.

How long is the main Commencement ceremony?

Shorter than Avengers: Endgame, longer than Game of Thrones. The All-University Commencement runs approximately two hours, from 1 to 3 pm. The length of the school/college convocations varies. Contact your school/college commencement coordinator for more information.

What about my individual college’s convocation?

Individual school and college convocation ceremonies are being held between May 16 and 19 and don’t require tickets. View the details for your school here.

Are there special ceremonies for graduates in BU’s Military Education Program?

Indeed. Commissioning ceremonies are held for the Army, Navy, and Air Force, with dates, times, and locations here.

Will my mom get bounced without an admission ticket?

No. But don’t arrive late. No tickets are required for the all-University Commencement, and there’s no guest limit for graduates, except space: seating is first come, first served, and the stands fill fast, so get to Nickerson Field no later than noon.

Can I bring my phone with me on the field? If I’m wearing a dress, where the heck do I put it?

Yes. Anywhere you can (women might consider a cross-body bag under their robe).

Will the ceremony be viewable online for people who cannot attend?

Yes, it will be live-streamed, with a link from the Commencement home page.

What if a member of my family is in a wheelchair or has difficulty walking?

Accessible seating is available during the All-University Commencement at Nickerson Field and at the school and college convocations. Field level seating arrangements for guests requiring wheelchair accessibility and/or guests who require an American Sign Language interpreter are available. While every effort will be made to provide accommodations requested after May 3, they cannot be guaranteed. If you need additional assistance, call Disability & Access Services at 617-353-3658.

What happens if it rains?

You can use an umbrella, but only before and during lineup. Once the academic procession starts, no umbrellas—you’ll be given a poncho if it rains, because, rain or shine, the show will go on at Nickerson.

Security lines outside of the 2018 Boston University Commencement on Nickerson Field with signs pointing to back check and no bag lines

Photo by Natasha Moustache

What can I bring into Nickerson and what is not allowed?

Only small- and average-size handbags, purses, and camera bags will be allowed. Bag size is limited to 12″x12″x6″. Oversized tote bags, backpacks, briefcases, and wrapped presents will not be allowed into Nickerson Field because of enhanced security measures. Please save items such as champagne, balloons, and beach balls for your post-Commencement festivities.

Where are the bathrooms?

Bathrooms are particular to the convocation venues. Nickerson Field guests will use bathrooms located under the grandstands, as well as portable toilets at the east and northwest sides of the field.

Do I really have to wear my cap and gown?

Does Mookie Betts really have to wear his Red Sox uniform? Yes, he does, and yes, you do. The only exceptions are for ROTC students, who may wear their dress uniforms instead, and students with religious garments. For example, a hijab can be worn, and whether to put the cap on top of it is up to the individual. Barnes & Noble at Boston University is the approved supplier for graduates’ caps and gowns. Bachelor’s and master’s candidates purchase their keepsake regalia and doctoral candidates rent theirs. Orders placed online for campus pickup will be available beginning Monday, May 13, at the George Sherman Union Alley, which will be open from 11 am until 7 pm.

Graduates on Nickerson Field in caps, gowns and other regalia

Photo by Dave Green

What if I lose my tassel?

There will be a tent on Nickerson Field Plaza where personnel will either sell or give you a tassel.

Will my red gown stain my white dress?

Good question. Not unless it pours. In the past 15 years, there has been just one reported instance, during a rainstorm. But if rain is forecast and you’re worried, bring an umbrella.

Where are the best backdrops for taking family pictures?

Another smart question. Do not meet for photos at the Harry Agganis statue (see question below about family meet-ups). It will be mobbed. Our photographers suggest these favorite spots:

  • By the BU sign at the intersection of University Road and Bay State Road. It’s out of the way and in the shade. Get to it by University Road on foot, or walk west from the BU Beach behind the George Sherman Union, 775 Commonwealth Ave.
  • In front of the “whale” sculpture—Counterpoint, by Russell Jacques (CFA’66)—on the BU Beach.
  • By the garden-cum-fountain behind the George Sherman Union (alternatively, in front of the scarlet sculpture in the GSU courtyard, or in front of the banner on the outside GSU wall).
  • A shot from in the stands at Nickerson, with the empty field behind.
  • Students who spent lots of time in the buildings on Cummington Mall could shoot a family photo in the middle of the street, with no car traffic to worry about.
  • If getting a BU sign or Rhett in the shot is important, go to the southwest corner of New Balance Field on Babcock Street (closest to Gardner and Alcorn Streets) and position your group to get Rhett on the side of the stands in the shot or the large Boston U. etched near there.
  • Incorporating any of the wayfinding signs can be nice, especially the one with MLK in front of the College of Arts & Sciences.
  • The fountain in front of the College of Communication for COM students who would feel nostalgia with that in the years to come.
  • There’s a BU sign at the U-turn across from 565 Commonwealth Ave. You just have to be very careful crossing there.
  • The east end of Myles Standish Hall in Kenmore Square (where Beacon Street and Bay State Road split) has a lovely collection of small trees and stone benches that would be great.
Alvino Williams, Jr. (MET '12) poses with his father Alvino Williams, Sr. while his wife and his mother Finell take photos

Photo by Charlie Mahoney

Argh. We forgot to make a dinner reservation. Now what?

First, don’t panic. This is Boston, a great food city. Yes, a lot of restaurants that take reservations will be booked. But if you worry less about ambience and more about good food and great company, your options are limitless. Plenty of casual places don’t take reservations and can push tables together for your group.

Where should I meet my family after the main University Commencement?

Totally up to you, with one caveat: avoid the Harry Agganis statue in front of FitRec, as that popular convening spot is always mobbed.

When will I actually receive my diploma: the main University Commencement or my school/college/program ceremony?

Diplomas are distributed at individual school and college convocations for students who attend them. No diplomas are handed out at the All-University Commencement. All students are asked to update and verify their diploma and graduation information, including whether they’ll attend a school convocation and their mailing address, via the Student Link. The Registrar’s office will begin mailing diplomas to those who select that option on June 17, 2019. If you don’t update your mailing address or want to pick up your diploma, your diploma will be available at your school/college until May 31. On June 7, diplomas will be available for pickup at the Registrar’s office at 881 Comm Ave.

When can I pick up my yearbook?

You can’t. It will be mailed to you in July, since this year’s yearbook will include Commencement coverage for the first time in a while.

Who picks the Commencement speaker?

Based on the advice of the honorary degree committee, BU’s president recommends candidates for honorary degrees to the Board of Trustees for approval. It is customary, although not required, that the Commencement and Baccalaureate speakers are invited from the group of honorees.

What are the best shoes to wear so I don’t trip or sink into the grass?

Sandals or wedges for women. One tip: Don’t wear high heels, which can catch in Nickerson Field’s synthetic-but-grass-replicating turf.

Are dogs allowed on Nickerson Field for the event?

If they’re service animals, absolutely. Otherwise, sorry, Rover will have to watch your videos of the big day.

Is there a lost and found for items?

The Boston University Police Department to the rescue. A lost and found is at the police station at 32 Agganis Way. If you lose your phone at at college convocation or other Commencement-related events, try the BUPD as well.

Is there a map that shows where graduates will be sitting?

Yes—and here it is.

A diagram showing the Graduate Seating Plan: looking at the stage, from left to right, the order is COM, ENG, MET, SHA, DOC, CAS, in the middle CAS, KILACHAND, PARDEE, then CAS, QUESTROM, WHEELOCK, CFA, and SARGENT. DOC includes all doctoral candidates and all degree candidates for STH, SPH, LAW, MED, GMS, SDM & SSW

What can I do with my cap and gown once I’m officially an alum?

It’s the 21st century—recycle them. No, we’re not kidding. There will be recycling stations for gowns at Commencement and tray stands instead of waste cans at school convocation receptions. Graduates who don’t plan to reuse their academic attire can deposit it in these places. According to BU’s Sustainability Program: “Each year, 4,300 caps and gowns made from 107,500 half liter bottles are provided to our graduates, keeping these bottles from filling up landfills and eliminating the need to use the equivalent of 2,150 gallons of gas to manufacture the polyester yarn used to produce the old gowns.”